President George W. Bush received a detailed letter from
Agudath Israel of America laying out reasons for why
imprisoned spy Jonathan J. Pollard, currently serving a life
sentence for spying, deserves a pardon from the US
Pollard had a hearing in U.S. District Court on September 2
on legal motions by his lawyers, who are seeking access to
certain classified materials relevant to their client's case,
as well as an opportunity to press their contention that he
was denied effective assistance of counsel in the proceeding
that led to his life sentence in 1987. Agudath Israel took
the opportunity to renew its longstanding advocacy to the
President of the United States -- advocacy stretching back to
the presidency of George H. W. Bush, and continuing through
the years of the Clinton administration -- for a commutation
of Mr. Pollard's sentence.
While acknowledging the seriousness of the crime for which
Mr. Pollard was convicted, the Agudath Israel letter, written
by executive vice president for government and public affairs
Chaim Dovid Zwiebel, notes that the country for which Mr.
Pollard spied was, and is, a staunch ally: Israel. Moreover,
Mr. Zwiebel added, the espionage took place at a time of
peace and, in the light of a recent report by a knowledgeable
analyst, did not compromise the security of American agents
abroad, as has been implied over the years.
What is more, the letter notes, the sentence of life in
prison that Mr. Pollard received after entering into a plea
bargain with the government "seems entirely out of line with
those received by other convicted spies."
The Agudath Israel presentation notes two other salient
points about the Pollard case: the fact that the government,
in a variety of ways, did not play fair in the process
leading up to the sentencing; and the fact that Mr. Pollard
was victimized by his own attorney's "shoddy lawyering" at
the time. Mr. Pollard is currently represented by different
Thus, Agudath Israel maintains, "It is fair to assume that
Pollard is still sitting in jail today only because both the
government and his lawyer deviated from the norms that
characterize our system and sense of American justice.
"There is something very wrong with that picture, and we
respectfully ask you to set it right."
The particular legal issues that were the subject of the
hearing, Agudath Israel points out, are obviously issues for
the court to decide. However, wrote Mr. Zwiebel, "The genius
of our constitutional system is that the Chief Executive has
the power, entirely independent of the courts, to act in a
humanitarian manner that upholds our nation's most noble
traditions of fair play and compassionate justice."
Thanking the President for his consideration of Agudath
Israel's plea, and for his "courageous leadership of our
great nation," the letter asserts that "the time has come"
for executive clemency of Jonathan Pollard and a commutation
of his sentence.